MONTANA COWBOY HALL OF FAME Legacy INDUCTION
DAVID C. FUNK (1910-2002)
DISTRICT 1 - YEAR 2024
David C. Funk was born on November 28, 1910, in Biggar, Saskatchewan, Canada. In 1916, his parents moved to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana, which had previously opened up acreage deemed surplus (after Indian allotment, under the 1908 Fort Peck Allotment Act passed by Congress) to homesteading, in 1913. The family settled on land 24 miles north of Frazer. David began his primary education at South Fork, a community one-room schoolhouse. Unfortunately, by the 4th grade, his natural skills of working with horses made him more useful around the homestead than in the classroom, therefore ending his primary education.
By 14 years old, Dave was breaking green colts and commanding a wagon pulled by a 4-up, consisting of two teams, hauling coal from The Cottonwood area north of the home place or hauling grain to Oswego. At age 18, he took his uncanny handiness with horses and signed on at the sprawling Hugo Johnson Ranch, 17 miles north of Oswego for $5.00 a month. Dave became a top hand on this cattle outfit. The country north of the Missouri River was still open range during these years and cattle ranches needed good ranch horses for all their cowboys. Their work was year-round to keep cattle from drifting too far into other ranches’ territory. Dave’s job was to ride ‘the rough string’ and keep the cowboys mounted on useable horses.
Several times, Dave, together with other cowboys, helped gather bunches of loose horses, which were mostly wild, and some farm horses that had strayed away from homesteaders. More than once, while topping off broncs, he recognized a brand on a horse that belonged to a neighboring farmer and on his own time, would return the horse to its thankful owner.
Dave worked a brief time on the construction of the Fort Peck Dam. Even though this was not his preferred work, he was often found helping the teamsters, who were driving teams of mules and pulling wagons of fill dirt. Many a frustrated teamster would call for Dave’s help to get an unruly mule to obey.
Dave took numerous trips as a ‘cowpoke’ on cattle trains transporting cattle shipped by rail from Wolf Point, Montana to Sioux City, Iowa. His job was to ‘poke’ the cattle, from above, which had fallen down in the boxcar, in order to get them to stand back up. At times he was required to crawl into a car packed with the cattle to get them on their feet again. This was an extremely dangerous endeavor.
Dave became well-known for his horse breaking and training in both Roosevelt and Valley Counties. He was often asked to help at area cattle brandings. Anyone needing a stud castrated, would call Dave Funk. When he was younger, his good friend, Dick Strachan, of Wolf Point, was raising a lot of good, registered Quarter Horses. Dave bought many Strachan colts which he raised and later trained. He became well-known for trading and selling good horses - once topping a horse sale at the Glasgow saleyard with a young stud he had trained. Dave enjoyed helping any beginner cowboy or cowgirl who was trying to learn the ropes of horsemanship.
Dave hauled U.S. mail to the Lustre community from Frazer by horseback or sled for a number of years. This job had the benefit of being able to break and train horses while delivering the mail as that 30-mile ride to Lustre certainly took the buck out of any unbroke horse.
Dave was an outgoing and talkative person. When people would come to their rural mailbox to pick up their mail, Dave would get to know them by taking a minute or two to engage in conversation. On one occasion a man came by, riding a horse that Dave recognized as a horse he had been missing for six months. Needless to say, the horse was restored to Dave on the spot!
Better than recovering a lost horse, was the delightful visits Dave had with a young gal who walked each day to her family’s mailbox for a chance to say hello to the dark haired, smiling bachelor. Blue-eyed, Bertha Rahn later asked Dave for a ride to Frazer, after his mail route was completed, as she had a job doing housework for a family in Frazer. These rides agreeably continued for many months causing love to grow between them. They were married on September 26, 1937 and began their life together in a one-room railroad tie shack in Frazer. Soon thereafter, they started a family and were blessed with a son, Lavern, and a daughter, Arlene.
In 1946, they had the opportunity to buy a ranch 17 miles north of Frazer. In 1951, a son, Gary, was born, and in 1953 a daughter, Carol, joined the family.
As the children grew older, they were taught work ethic from the many chores and responsibilities expected of them on the ranch. Dave made certain that the family took time to have fun as well. They made a trip every summer to Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs near Saco, Montana.
What the family enjoyed most was music! Every Sunday morning, while the children got ready for church, Dave, already finished with the outside chores and dressed, would play songs on his Italian “squeeze box” accordion. The Funk children learned to play instruments, including guitar, bass, banjo and piano. The family often enjoyed playing together at home and occasionally at church functions.
Dave was fortunate enough to have had the pleasure of riding horses until he was 88 years of age.
Many near and far gave their condolences when Dave passed away just a few days before his 92nd birthday.
His greatest joy and life’s fulfillment was his love for Bertha and their marriage of 65 years, his children and grandchildren. The crowning love in his life, beyond family, horses, and ranching was his steadfast walk with Jesus Christ, His Lord and Savior.